Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mesabi Range

I grew up on the Mesabi Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. My hometown of Chisholm lies somewhat in the middle of this strip of iron ore that runs SW to NE from Grand Rapids, MN to Babbitt, MN. The area is dotted with abandoned open pit mines that have become beautiful deep water lakes and a few very large mines and taconite plants that are still operating. The mining companies still own and control a very large amount of the land in this area.

As a child growing up in the heart of the Iron Range we loved to go out and explore. Of course this meant climbing over or under the fences that mining companies erected to keep people out and keep them safe. This also meant that in order to truly get that explorer feel there of course had to be that element of danger. It also meant trespassing on mining company property. We always felt it wasn't illegal unless of course you were caught by mine officials and got a ride into town in the backseat of a squad car only to have your parents come and get you.

Then there was the matter of the iron ore itself. Our mothers, God Bless them, absolutely hated it because of the stains it left on everything. I have no idea how many pairs of jeans and shoes were ruined by myself and my friends and there was never anyway of hiding the fact that you were in a place you were told over and over again not to go.

I can remember taking a long piece of old hemp rope that my father had hanging in the garage and using it to climb down to several inaccessible swimming holes that lay deep in the pits. Tie end around a tree or large bolder and toss the rope over the edge to climb down. No harness, no technical climbing gear, no partner on belay, just throwing caution to the wind. How and hell we survived past the age of 16 has always amazed me.

To this day, these pits create a sense of wonder and they still fill some of us with a sense of wanderlust and the desire to get out and explore. Or, maybe some of us just need to grow up.

Keep exploring...

No comments: